The Chairman’s Perspective with Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen former Chair of RADA and theatre empresario
This is a talk which should inspire anyone interested in getting more involved with the arts, revealing how someone can move seamlessly from one professional City career into a hugely successful artistic life. There are definitely roles for NEDs and Stephen will help us understand how to get them.
Stephen started his career as a financial journalist straight from reading law at Cambridge, and, aged 23, was a founder of Euromoney Publications.
But his principal interest over the last 40 years has been the theatre – and he has, since 1984, been a West End theatre owner and manager of– not all at the same time – 11 leading West End theatres including the Victoria Palace, the Vaudeville, the Savoy and the Ambassadors. Most famously, perhaps, he held the licence to produce The Mousetrap (from Agatha Christie’s grandson to whom she gave the rights as a ninth birthday present), which Stephen acquired from Dame Agatha’s original producer who had launched the show 42 years earlier.
Once in the theatre, Stephen took up a number of NED positions, first in the Lloyds insurance sector where his roles included Chair of Willis Faber & Dumas (Agencies), as well as chairing two small listed companies, one in insurance and one in publishing, as well as his largest commercial NED chairmanship at Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspapers.
Alongside the management roles, he has also held a number of positions in the Not for Profit sector. He retires this year after 14 years as Chair of the Council (Board) of RADA and, in 1997, he founded the education charity, Mousetrap Theatre Projects, which has taken over 100,000 disadvantaged young people to the theatre. He was a trustee of The Theatres Trust, President of the Society of London Theatre and remains Chair of Acting for Others (which funds support for all theatre workers through its 14 member charities) and the Garrick Charitable Trust which supports performing arts and literature. He is now standing down as President of JCA Charitable Foundation after 25 years during which he has transformed this 130 year old Jewish charity.